"This relegation of sizes like plus and petite to specialty retailers springs from royal courts that dictated fashion based on the preferences of the king and the nobility got their garments made to order. Common people, made their own clothes, with lesser fabrics available to them. However, the industrial revolution changed the fashion culture with streetwear emerging as the most preferred trend."
NPD Group's Consumer Tracking Service study shows, US teens who purchased plus-size clothing increased 34 per cent in 2015, compared to 19 per cent in 2012. Around two-thirds of US women consider themselves to be a special size defined as plus, petite, junior or tall. Out of these, one-third women identify themselves as being plus-size.
Streetwear emerges the new trend
This relegation of sizes like plus and petite to specialty retailers springs from royal courts that dictated fashion based on the preferences of the king and the nobility got their garments made to order. Common people, made their own clothes, with lesser fabrics available to them. However, the industrial revolution changed the fashion culture with streetwear emerging as the most preferred trend. It also changed conventional standards of beauty as women like Beyonce and Taylor Swift were accepted more for their talent than beauty. Lack of size standards, however, continues to isolate women that don’t fit into the industry's loosely established ranges.
The social media helped these plus size women put forth their demand for stylish apparel. Women beyond sizes 0 to 12, in age groups 15 to 65 are demanding stylish apparels that actually fit them. Although the millennials and Gen Z are at the forefront of this movement, ripples can be seen throughout the female population.
The new normal
Earlier merchandise for plus sizes was mostly relegated to dark corners of the store or had to be made on special orders. To make things worse, marketing plus-size clothing suggested shoppers wanted to hide their bodies or have an unsophisticated outlook. However, Alexandra Waldman, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Universal Standard changed this trend by treating inclusive sizing as the new normal. The brand, since 2015, has been creating thoughtful, mindful design that allows apparel to be coveted.
Inadequate infrastructure makes business difficult
In the past, brands like J. Crew cited expense along with manufacture and design glitches as reasons for their limited sizing options. Although appearing to be fake, these production challenges are real. There is currently no infrastructure available for a truly size-inclusive brand for sizes ranging from 00 to 40. If these brands increase their sizes, it impacts their inventory costs and stock-outs, constrains floor space besides adding to complexity in SKUs, manufacturing instruments and logistics.
Consultation rather than shopping
To tackle this issue, retailers are resorting to customisation. However, they are also trying to maintain their production costs by creating an 'endless aisle'. Here, women can design clothes digitally and get them delivered at their homes, making the experience more of a fashion consultation
Online brands are spearheading this shift, but they face some obstacles. Universal Standard, Curvy Sense and online brand Showpo had to employ more models, human and otherwise, use more fabric for some items without charging more, grade patterns as sizes go up or down the scale and find factories that understand their needs.
Offering only a narrow size range is slowly becoming indefensible. It is now time for designers and retailers to work for all women. Any brand that decides to design for women of only a certain size is unacceptable as dressing is a basic right that all women need to enjoy.